What is the meaning of `gun-shy’?

The word `shy’ is often added to nouns like `camera’, `gun’ and `publicity’ to mean that that an individual is not particularly fond of that thing.

For example, a person who is `camera-shy’ does not like standing before cameras; he/she doesn’t like getting his/her picture taken. Similarly, a person who is `publicity-shy’ will do anything to avoid publicity. He doesn’t want his name mentioned in the media.

A person who is `gun-shy’ is afraid of guns and tries to keep away from them. Guns and the noise they make, make him nervous. Nowadays, the expression `gun-shy’ has taken on a wider meaning. When you say that someone is `gun-shy’, what you mean is that the individual is very timid and afraid to take risks.

 *After their last bridge collapsed, the company is gun-shy to build any new ones.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – April 17, 2006


One thought on “What is the meaning of `gun-shy’?

  1. The concept is right, but I am not sure the origin of the expression is. I believe the term developed as a reference to horses and their reaction to the sound of gunfire– a horse that was “gun shy” was one that never acclimated to the sound of a gun, and so was of dubious use in the American west.

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